From 0 to 15,000 Users in 2 Weeks

By Ryan Oldenburg on

I launched Pushbullet on January 20 of this year. Since then, over 15,000 people have signed up and have pushed over 25,000 things.

How did you get so many people to sign up so fast?

I believe that it was a combination of a very effective launch day blog post and people seeing value in Pushbullet. The launch day blog post was effective because I focused on exactly why Pushbullet was useful, giving concrete examples that were what I had in mind as I was building the features. I did this to help people ‘get’ what Pushbullet was all about and I believe it made a big difference in people seeing the value in what I had built.

This is different from many launch day blog posts for other apps and services I have read which have focused on the process of building whatever was launching, instead of its highlighting value.

Even an effective blog post on launch day wouldn’t have done anything if no one read it, which is where a little luck might have come in.

I submitted the blog post to reddit’s r/android subreddit and Hacker News. It’s reception on r/android was incredibly positive (It ended up being the 2nd most upvoted submission to the Android subreddit that week) and, while it wasn’t so overwhelmingly popular on HN, it did still spend the day on the front page.

Having been on the front page of Hacker News and r/android started a bit of a positive feedback loop. Over the course of the next week, Lifehacker,, Droid Life, and many others wrote about Pushbullet.

Interestingly, most of Pushbullet’s traffic and sign-ups have been from r/android and the Droid Life piece. Both of these places cater to communities of Android enthusiasts so reaching more of that community is where I’m going to focus my growth efforts as I continue to work on Pushbullet.

How about some numbers?

According to Google Analytics, the launch day blog post has had 45,000 unique visitors and, shockingly, 90% of then were from r/android and only 5% from Hacker News. This shows the magnitude of the difference in the size of the audiences between the two sites.

An obvious lesson follows, if the people you want as users have a popular subreddit, consider getting to the front page of that subreddit at least as important as getting to the front page of Hacker News (probably more important).

This blog is hosted as a static site on Amazon S3, generated by Jekyll and deployed using Jekyll-S3. My January bill for S3 ended up being $2.96.

For less than $3, I served this entire blog and all of the static assets for the Pushbullet web app for almost 100,000 visits. Not only did it cost almost nothing, but essentially no amount of traffic was going to overwhelm the server. I cannot fathom hosting a blog any other way.

A dumb mistakes I made.

I use Redis to store session data and OpenID associations. As the app was getting more popular, I was wondering why Redis was using so much memory. Turns out I was issuing session cookies to every request that came to the server. This meant all of the API calls from the installed apps were putting tons of useless session data into Redis. Oops.

Fortunately, I figured out what was going on and fixed the problem. All of the useless data has since expired and Redis has gone from taking over 80MB of RAM down to about 10MB. Much better.

My big challenge now is how to keep growing after the launch buzz.

I know I’ll be able to count on some amount of daily sustained growth now, but I want more. I have a couple of significant features I’m going to add to Pushbullet which will help accelerate growth but the real objective is getting featured in the Play Store. That’s certainly the fastest way to get hundreds of thousands of installations in no time and when I finish a couple of the things I’m working on, I think I can make a real play for that. We’ll see.

Why did I write this?

I wrote this post because I have always enjoyed reading other people reflect on their launches. I know that many of the things I’ve gotten right while launching Pushbullet were lessons from other people’s launches. Now I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my own.

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